The Glamping (glamorous camping) trend continues to grow and is proving a lucrative option for farmers looking to diversify. Whether they have a small farm or a large estate, there may be space in a paddock or woodland for one or even several safari style canvas lodges.
Last Summer Halfords conducted a study which revealed that 50 per cent of families planned to camp, hot on the heels of the trend to Staycation, rather than go abroad. People seem to have rediscovered the joys of a UK holiday spent outdoors, as long as they have their home comforts, along with a chance to swap the high tech life for a simpler one.
Amanda Norman, moved away from the 120 acre East Sussex family farm, specialising in rare breeds, in her early twenties to work in IT in London. By the time she was married with two children, her parents were looking to retire. They needed to sell Dernwood Farm to realise capital so they invited Amanda and Tim to buy into the business in order to save the farm. Amanda tried to find ways to improve profitability. “We tried farmer’s markets, adopting a piglet and would have showcased wooden play structures (but the council did not give permission) before finally hitting on camping four years ago. This has been a huge success and we were thrilled to be voted one of the top 10 campsites by the camper’s luxury guidebook – Cool Camping.”
Dernwood Farm now offers a camping to Glamping experience to suit everyone. Initially starting with “wild camping” which simply required the pitches (and a shovel), which is still proving very popular. The following year they added the bell tent, which had been used for her sister’s honeymoon, to the website and got a great response. Two more bell tents with wood burning stoves, eco showers and loos were added last year. Now the first luxury safari style lodge from Albion Canvas is on order and will be ready for Spring – half of August is already booked. Albion will set up the three bedroom lodge, including installing the wood burning stove with cooker, in an 8 acre sunny glade.
Getting planning permission included commissioning a general biodiversity survey. Dernwood Farm has 70 acres of ancient coppiced woodland, which in addition to providing an idyllic setting for the camping, has also helped with planning permission. The forestry commission woodland management plan concluded that rotating the position of the tents will help to reintroduce the traditional coppicing that started in the 1600’s to fuel the iron ore industry there.
Amanda would like to have applied for a grant, but found the process was going to delay the launch, so pressed ahead by leasing one safari style tent over three years through Green Technologies, adding an extra £3,000 to the capital outlay. Fuelled by the success of the first lodge, she hopes to get a grant to add two more of these luxury lodges next year. She hopes that she will be able to manage the change overs with just some part time help in high season. By installing some excellent software (her previous career in IT coming in useful), bookings are no longer labour intensive and the 50% deposit has helped with cash flow. Whilst Glamping sites were keen to have Dernwood on their sites, Amanda preferred to keep complete control over bookings and not give away hefty commissions.
In Hampshire, Jack Tyrwhitt-Drake runs Cedar Valley Glamping on the family’s 2,500 acre Bereleigh estate in the South Downs National Park. After one successful season with just one tent, he has ordered three more. The safari style lodges will be located in 5 acres of woodland with stunning views of sunsets. To date guests have included corporate clients, plus hen and stag parties, attracted by the outdoor activities including the estate’s own shoot. Jack shares the work load with his mother. With the additional tents there will be twenty-four bed changes per week. To make this more economical, he plans to convert an old stable into a laundry so that it can be done on site.
Both Glamping sites have chosen tents which are handmade by Albion Canvas, creators of luxury tented lodges and geodesic domes, in their factory in Wellington, Somerset. The uniquely designed range of Safari-style tents have a central pole, a separate PVC outer flysheet and a complete canvas inner tent, which gives good thermal insulation in hot and cold weather, as well as sound proofing, making it useable all year round – even in the Alps, to where they recently fulfilled their first export order.
The Grand Tsavo, the largest of Albion’s five models, has interior space of 11.8 metres x 5 metres, which can be laid out in a number of ways to create separate rooms for living, sleeping and bathing, plus an outside deck of 2 metres. All models are designed to take a wood burning stove. New for 2012 is the Zambesi, based on a traditional African “Rondavel” with an acrylic canvas roof, canvas walls, 3 opening windows and a solid external door and frame and fabric internal roof lining.
In addition to supplying the lodges, Albion can also erect and fully equip them, with locally made wood burning stoves, kitchens, bathrooms and furnishings. Prices start from approximately £18,000 for the tent, installation, internal fixtures and fittings including the kitchen, wood burning stove and furniture (excluding bathroom fittings), or around £22,000 including the bathroom.
Orders take approximately four to six weeks to fulfil.
Albion Canvas Company, Unit 4, Tonedale Business Park, Wellington, Somerset, TA21 0AW
Tel +44 (0) 1823 665849
Fax +44 (0) 1823 665850
For further press information please contact:
Tina Morgan Media Relations
023 92 826922